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Kung Fu LIVE!

Hong Kong phooey.

God, motion games are a bossy bunch. Before you can even play the bloody things, you have to stand there like a lemon while they tell you all the things you have to do to make the game work, all the things you absolutely mustn't do if you want the game to work and all the things you might want to do if the game doesn't work.

Kung Fu Live, a 2D fighting game in which you are the controller, opens with over ten pages of calibration, instruction and suggestion as to the best way to get the bloody thing working as intended.

Clear an area the size of a large truck. Move the furniture. Change your clothes. Switch the lights on. Close the curtains. Open them again. Tilt the camera. Try moving the telly. And this is before you've even found out if you need to do all these things.

By the time the game actually started, I was a nervous wreck with severe performance anxiety. Will my modest living room be up to scratch? It's like being judged by Sarah Beeny, if Sarah Beeny was the Lawnmower Man and could look out of my telly and tell me my lighting is inadequately arranged.

Which it was, inevitably. Even though the preview image on-screen seemed perfectly clear and well lit, the software wasn't having any of it. "Too dark", it scolded. "Your gameplay may suffer."

The game asks you to strike certain poses, then drops you into these comic book cutscenes.

So, I dutifully collected some more lamps from around the house to back up the feeble three unshaded overhead lightbulbs and large desk lamp that apparently mean I've been living in a gloomy cave for the past ten years.

Then there's the issue of space. Because Kung Fu Live puts all of you on-screen, you need to stand far back from the camera. An area 9' by 7' is recommended, but standing over six feet tall I found myself having to go back almost 10' to fit into the on-screen outline. This was just about possible, although it meant I was right up against the wall.

The distance doesn't do the camera's resolution any favours, with noticeably worse results the further away I stood. The game also reckons you should then allow roughly three large paces to either side as well which, frankly, wasn't going to happen without moving house. I love Eurogamer, I'm dedicated to Eurogamer, but there are limits to what I'm prepared to do for one review.

This is the same room I always use for my motion gaming - a fairly average living room, by all accounts. Kung Fu Live requires the most stringent conditions of all the comparable games I've played this year.

Normally, with Kinect and PlayStation Move, it's a case of simply switching the top light on and shoving the coffee table out of the way. Game on. That wasn't enough for Kung Fu Live, presumably because it's using just the Eye camera and the reduction in available technology limits what can be done in-game.

Special attacks liven things up, but the PlayStation Eye struggles with some of the required gestures.

It took a lot of tinkering, both in the room and in the menus, to get a result that was still fairly shoddy. It's fair to say that for some players, maybe even most players, this game will not perform to the advertised standard.

Of course, such demands mean the game has to offer a lot of entertainment to justify the mucking about required to make it work. It's here, rather than in your living room, that Kung Fu Live really struggles.

It's a beat-em-up of the old school, reminiscent of single-screen fighters like Bruce Lee crossed with scrolling brawlers like Double Dragon. You appear on the screen (or, if you don't live in an empty white warehouse, a tiny washed out flickering humanoid shape that occasionally has your face) and whatever actions you perform are recreated by your mini digital double.

Credit where it's due, the result can be impressive, from a technical point of view. The fidelity to your movements is very accurate, even when the image quality is dire, and the freedom to make up your own fighting moves offers immediate, tangible amusement.

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About the Author
Dan Whitehead avatar

Dan Whitehead


Dan has been writing for Eurogamer since 2006 and specialises in RPGs, shooters and games for children. His bestest game ever is Julian Gollop's Chaos.

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